A Barrow’s Goldeneye has been hanging out in the West Pond at Jamaica Bay since at least the Christmas Bird Count, and likely earlier. This more northerly species is very similar to the locally frequent Common Goldeneyes, but with a scope it’s distinguishable. Various birders including myself had tried and failed to find it, while others had succeeded. After several weeks it had become clear that the difference was timing. The bird tends to take off from the West Pond and head out into the bay within an hour or less after dawn, and return maybe half an hour before dusk. This makes it somewhat challenging to find, but not impossible if you get up early enough.
So this morning I pulled myself out of bed at 4:00 AM, grabbed my scope and binoculars and started the long trek out to Broad Channel: #2 to Hoyt Street, transfer outside the subway to the A train at Jay Street, which was unfortunately running local; and then all the way out past the airport to Broad Channel, and then walk in the dark to the refuge, where I arrived just as light was starting to peep out into the morning air.
Despite this I was not the first one there. I found a couple of women already out on the trail with scopes. After a little while scoping through the flocks, we finally located the bird. The difference is subtle: a very slightly kidney shaped chin patch instead of the more roundish patch of the Common Goldeneye, and less white on the upper flanks and back; but it was distinctive. We watched it for about 25-30 minutes, periodically losing track of it and then refinding it, before it took off into flight with two Common Goldeneyes about 5 minutes to 7:00.
No photos I’m afraid. It was pretty far away, and in the morning haze I forgot to bring my camera. :-(